Django Unchained (2012) Director: Quentin Tarantino
Django Unchained follows the familiar pattern of other recent Tarantino films: a self-conscious, historically revisionist revenge film that is entertaining, extremely violent, and playfully rife with allusions to classic cinema.
The story takes place during the antebellum south. A slave named Django (played by Jaime Foxx) is being dragged through the south on a prison-chain with fellow slaves, until a German Dentist and Bounty Hunter named Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz) suddenly arrives and frees Django in order to aid in the “capture or killing” of two notorious brothers on a plantation. In exchange Schultz offers Django freedom and money. After they kill the brothers, Django decides to join Schultz as a Bounty Hunter in an effort to eventually rescue his wife from the “Candie-land” plantation. They devise a plan to rescue his wife from a greedy and evil slave-owner named Candie (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) but it backfires causing an all-out war on the plantation until many men are killed and Django is captured and tortured. He is sold to an Australian mining company that intends to work him to death, but Django persuades his guardians that they should return to Candie-land to collect the Bounty on a man located there. Django then kills the guards, frees his fellow slaves, and rides off with plenty of dynamite back to Candie-land. Django kills everyone is an absurd bloodbath, frees his wife, and blows up the entire Candie-land plantation as he and his wife ride off into the evening.
The name Django is a nod to a famous 1966 Corbucci Italian “Spaghetti Western”. It was known for being one of the most violent westerns of all time. In fact, the original actor playing Django, named Franco Nero, makes a cameo appearance in Django: Unchained. Upon release, as predicted, the film caused a minor uproar among some prominent American black leaders for its profane language and its dishonoring of the true nature of American slavery. Also, as with every Tarantino film, some criticized it for its graphic violence. The film was shot primarily in Louisiana and Wyoming.
The film is brilliant, to be sure, but far too extreme in its highly stylized and inaccurate portrayal of the antebellum south. Tarantino is like a kid in a candy store -self-indulgent, drawn to flashy explosions, and he chooses to embrace selective memory for much of his film-making. He claims movies like Django help America deal with its uncomfortable past, but this reviewer is skeptical that Tarantino comes anything close to a “healer” of old wounds.